Religious groups engaged in lobbying in Washington have increased dramatically since 1970 when less than 40 groups maintained operations in the nation’s capital. Today, there are some 200 religious groups employing over 1,000 people and spending $390 million a year, a new study by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life
Roman Catholics are first among the lobbyists, making up 19 percent of the religious advocacy groups. Following them are evangelical Protestants at 18 percent, Jewish groups at 12 percent, and mainline Protestants at 8 percent.
“But many smaller U.S. religious groups, including Baha’is, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs, also have established advocacy organizations in the Washington area,” the report noted. “In fact, the number of Muslim groups (17) is about the same as the number of mainline Protestant groups (16). And the largest category today is interreligious: One-quarter of the groups studied (54) either represent multiple faiths or advocate on religious issues without representing a specific religion.”
The increase in religious lobbying has kept pace with the rate of growth of lobbying in general, the report found. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee led the groups on expenditures at more than $87 million in 2008, followed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops at $26 million, the Family Research Council at $14 million, the American Jewish Committee at $13 million, and Concerned Women for America at $12 million.
Other findings include the following:
Only 10 of the groups are formed under IRS rules that allow them to conduct substantial lobbying. However, an additional 26 groups have set up separate organizations to conduct such activities.
Half of the groups in the study are exclusively Christian and many of the coalition or interreligious groups are “partly or largely Christian in outlook.”
The groups are well-versed in the use of modern technology, with 80 percent of those saying they used e-mails to connect with constituents and 60 percent use Facebook and Twitter.
Nearly 80 percent of the groups employ 12 or fewer people in Washington.
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